Quick Guide: Format an ebook for Smashwords

Save yourself from going through more than 100 pages of style guide, here’s a quick guide to format an ebook for Smashwords with a simple style using block paragraphs, section headings, table of contents and images.

1. Prepare your manuscript

Make a back up copy of your manuscript before applying any formatting modifications. This way you can go back anytime to your original formatting.

Remove items that are not supported by ebooks.

  • tables (if you really need something in table format, you can take a screenshot and insert as image)
  • columns
  • dropcaps
  • more than 4 consecutive paragraph returns in a row
  • tabs
  • indents made with spacebar or tabs
  • text boxes
  • automatic footnotes (footnotes can be inserted as inline text right after the paragraph or line where it is being referred to)
  • page numbering
  • floating images with text wrapping (see more on adding images in #5)
  • indexing

Smashwords requires a front matter, the first page of the ebook, to have the book title, author name and copyright line. Add this to your manuscript.

Book Title (required)
Author Name (required)

Smashwords Edition (optional)

Copyright 2015 Author Name (required)

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold
or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

(Optional. The Smashwords License Statement for paid ebooks can be modified or replaced with CC License. There is also a template available in the Smashwords Style Guide for free ebooks.)

2. Strip your manuscript of any formatting

Open a new MS Word document and save it as a .doc. Turn off the AutoCorrect and AutoFormat features by going to Word> Preferences> AutoCorrect and unchecking the box beside Automatically correct spelling and formatting as you type.


Once you’ve setup a new .doc file, go back to your manuscript and strip it of any formatting. To do this, select all contents (cmd+a) and open TextEdit and paste (cmd+v) your manuscript. Go to Format, select Make Plain Text and click OK when the Convert this document to plain text? prompt appears. Select all converted plain text and paste to the new .doc file you prepared earlier.

3. Add styles

Now that you have a clean .doc file, you can now add styling to your manuscript.

Activate the Show/Hide feature so that you can see the paragraph returns, spaces, tabs and other formatting marks.


Select all, go to Format> Style> Normal and click Modify. Set Normal to Times New Roman, 10pt, left-aligned, single spaced. Don’t click OK yet, go to Format> Paragraph and set it to left aligned, 0 left and right indentations, 0.01” special first line indentation, 0pt spacing before, 6pt spacing after, single line spacing and click OK, OK and Apply.

Modify the Normal style AND…
Set Paragraph style.

Your manuscript should now have the same look all through out. DO NOT make any direct formatting such as changes in font size, font type, alignment, line spacing or indents. You can directly apply bold or italic format but if you need to apply changes other than that you need to create a new style.

Should you decide to create a new style, keep in mind to:

  • Stick to these fonts: Times New Roman, Garamond and Arial
  • Not use any font sizes over 14pt
  • Set the text color to automatic

To create a new style for section headings, select/highlight a section heading, go to Format> Style> Normal and click New. Change the name to Normal Heading (or other name that you like), set it to Times New Roman, 14pt, left-aligned, single spaced. Don’t click OK yet, go to Format> Paragraph and set to left aligned, 0 left and right indentations, 0.01” special first line indentation, 0pt spacing before, 10pt spacing after, single line spacing AND go to the Line and Page Breaks tab> tick Page break before, and click OK, OK and Apply.

Create new style based on Normal.
Set paragraph formatting AND…
Go to the Line and Page Breaks tab> tick Page break before.

Go through your manuscript and apply these styles as necessary using the Quick Styles tab. Again, DO NOT make any direct formatting.

Apply the styles you have created to your manuscript.

4. Add table of contents

First, you need to bookmark the section headings. Select the heading, click Insert> Bookmark, add the section name without spacing and click Add. Do this for all the section headings.


Next, type the table of contents after front matter. Link each listed section to the bookmark you created earlier. Select the listed section name, click Insert> Hyperlink> Document> Anchor-Locate, select the appropriate bookmark and click OK.


5. Add images

If your manuscript uses images, then it should have been removed when you did #2.

To insert an image after a hard paragraph return, click Insert> Photo> Picture from File and locate the JPG or PNG file that you’d like to use. Make sure that it is inserted in line with text, right click on the image, go to Format Picture> Layout, select In line with text and click OK.


Resize images before inserting and keep in mind the 10MB file upload limit.

The cover image is uploaded as a separate file. The recommended size is 1600 x 2400px.

You are now ready to upload your ebook!

Smashwords makes it easy for writers to self-publish and distribute their own ebook. They offer conversion of your work to the following formats:

  • EPUB
  • Mobipocket (Kindle)
  • Palm Doc
  • PDF
  • LRF
  • RTF
  • Plain Text
  • HTML SmashReader

If you’d like to find out how to apply other styles or know more post-formatting tips, download their very detailed and easy to follow style guide.

Are you are a writer looking into self-publishing your own ebook but don’t have the time to do the required formatting?

Don’t fret. I can help you format your ebook so that you can focus on your writing. You can send me an inquiry here.

One thought on “Quick Guide: Format an ebook for Smashwords

  1. Thank you for this. I read about half of Coker’s style guide, but found it hard to truly understand what he wanted me to do with everything. I found it to be more of a history lesson of Smashwords, nestled into each couple of paragraphs. This is extremely useful, and I will be returning when I format my next ebook.

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